Land of Many Gifts wheel imageLand of Many Gifts

Land of Many Gifts wheel imageLand of Many Gifts

Focusing on village life in the historic era, the Land of Many Gifts gallery showcases the numerous contributions of women within Plains societies. Learn about the prosperous gardens owned by the women of the Upper Missouri River tribes. Whether a young child or a grandparent, every person in a village has an important role, seen in Children and Elders. Observe how Women’s Art is about more than artistic beauty, it also has important social and economic functions. The centerpiece of the gallery is an Apsáalooke Ashtáale (Crow Lodge or Tipi), one of the most beautiful and practical shelters ever invented. The voice of Alma Snell (Apsáalooke), granddaughter of Pretty Shield, speaks about life in a lodge, and Louella Johnson (Apsáalooke), sings lullabies.
The Plains Indian Museum's Land of Many Gifts Gallery

The Plains Indian Museum’s Land of Many Gifts Gallery

Follow the seasons as you journey through the Land of Many Gifts

Spring

In the beginning, we Hidatsa [and] Crow were one and the same people. —Apsáalooke (Crow) Origin Story
In the late 1700s, the Crow people became nomadic hunters, separating from their semi-sedentary relatives, the Hidatsa.
Crow people in camp with tipis and campfire among the trees, ca. 1903–1925. MS 95 William A. Petzoldt Lantern Slide Collection. LS.95.185

Crow people in camp with tipis and campfire among the trees, ca. 1903–1925. MS 95 William A. Petzoldt Lantern Slide Collection. LS.95.185

George Catlin (1796–1872). "The Buffalo Hunt-Surrounding the Herd," ca. 1865. Currier and Ives print. Gift of W.J. (Bill) Holcombe, Bear Creek Ranch, Dubois, Wyoming. 9.94.1

George Catlin (1796–1872). “The Buffalo Hunt-Surrounding the Herd,” ca. 1865. Currier and Ives print. Gift of W.J. (Bill) Holcombe, Bear Creek Ranch, Dubois, Wyoming. 9.94.1

In the spring, when the Hidatsa people broke winter camp and returned to their gardens on the upper Missouri River, the Crow went to follow game in the mountains and on the Plains.
Crow people on horses in canyon, ca. 1903–1925. MS 95 William A. Petzoldt Lantern Slide Collection. LS.95.197

Crow people on horses in canyon, ca. 1903–1925. MS 95 William A. Petzoldt Lantern Slide Collection. LS.95.197

 
Planting

Spring: Planting

We Hidatsa women were early risers in the planting season… It was my habit to be up before sunrise, while the air was cool, for we thought this the best time for garden work. —Maxidiwiac (Buffalo Bird Woman), Nuxbaaga (Hidatsa), 1917
Hidatsa women cultivated the fertile bottomlands of the Missouri River, perfecting varieties of native plants over generations. As soon as the ice broke in the spring, women began turning the soil with digging sticks.
Digging stick. Upper Missouri / Plains. NA.105.37

Digging stick. Upper Missouri / Plains. NA.105.37

When the soil was prepared, then planting began: first sunflowers, then corn, squash, and beans.
Gathering Willows

Spring: Gathering Willows

In the spring, women gathered saplings, boughs, and bark to use for building earth lodges, cache pits, and bullboats, and for weaving mats and baskets. The name Hidatsa means “people of the willows.”
Tsistsistas (Cheyenne) woman gathering wood, 1902. MS 37 Elizabeth C. Grinnell Collection. P.37.1.13

Tsistsistas (Cheyenne) woman gathering wood, 1902. MS 37 Elizabeth C. Grinnell Collection. P.37.1.13

Willow bark and reed basket. NA.106.361

Willow bark and reed basket. NA.106.361

Tobacco Ceremony

Spring: Tobacco Ceremony

Every spring, the Crow Tobacco Society (Bacu’sua) plants sacred tobacco seeds in a ceremony that traces to the tribe’s origin. Sacred tobacco, a different species from smoking tobacco, is the only crop that the otherwise nomadic Crow traditionally raised.
You go out west, the land of the setting sun…. When you get there, I will show you…the ways of planting these sacred seeds. So long as you do that…I’m going to bless you people…. I’m sending you out to a good land now. —Joe Medicine Crow, Apsáalooke (Crow), 1999
Women lined up for Tobacco Dance ceremony, in Montana, ca. 1903–1925. MS 95 Petzoldt Collection. LS.95.275

Women lined up for Tobacco Dance ceremony, in Montana, ca. 1903–1925. MS 95 Petzoldt Collection. LS.95.275

 
Hunting

Spring: Hunting

In the early springtime, the Crow left their winter camps and migrated to the mountains to hunt deer for a moon.
Moving camp, Absaroke (Crow). Colorized lantern slide. MS 95 William A. Petzoldt Lantern Slides Collection. LS.95.293

Moving camp, Absaroke (Crow). Colorized lantern slide. MS 95 William A. Petzoldt Lantern Slides Collection. LS.95.293

Unpacking at temporary camp, Absaroke (Crow). William A. Petzoldt Lantern Slides Collection. LS.95.73

Unpacking at temporary camp, Absaroke (Crow). Colorized lantern slide. MS 95 William A. Petzoldt Lantern Slides Collection. LS.95.73

When we reached the…village, what a fine time we had! The meat! Fat meat, and dancing! —Pretty Shield, Apsáalooke (Crow), 1932

Summer

Corn and weeds alike grew rapidly now, and we women of the household were out with our hoes daily, to keep ahead of the weeds…. Always in every garden during the growing season, there would be someone working or singing. —Maxidiwiac (Buffalo Bird Woman), Nuxbaaga (Hidatsa), 1917 (From Frederick L. Wilson. Buffalo Bird Woman’s Garden. Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1987.)
Hoe, ca. 1885. Northern Plains. NA.105.1

Hoe, ca. 1885. Northern Plains. NA.105.1

In the summertime, when it’s getting hot down there, we come up here to these mountains. —Joe Medicine Crow, Apsáalooke (Crow), 1999
Joseph Henry Sharp (1859–1953). "The Summer Camp," ca. 1906. Whitney Purchase Fund. 23.61

Joseph Henry Sharp (1859–1953). “The Summer Camp,” ca. 1906. Whitney Purchase Fund. 23.61

 
Celebration

Summer: Celebration

During the summer, tribes convened for communal hunting, and for the major celebrations—the Sun Dance, the Grass Dance, and others. During reservation days, traditional summer ceremonies and celebrations continued and adapted.
Blackfoot Indians and others participate in ceremonial parade at Glacier National Park, 1910–1920. Black and white photograph. Buffalo Bill Center of the West. MS 320 Paul Dyck Plains Indians Buffalo Culture Collection. P.320.138

Blackfoot Indians and others participate in ceremonial parade at Glacier National Park, 1910–1920. MS 320 Paul Dyck Plains Indians Buffalo Culture Collection. P.320.138

Building the Sun Dance lodge, ca. 1922–1935. Black and white photograph. Buffalo Bill Center of the West. MS 165 Thomas B. Marquis Collection. PN.165.3.81

Building the Sun Dance lodge, ca. 1922–1935. MS 165 Thomas B. Marquis Collection. PN.165.3.81

Tending the Garden

Summer: Tending the Garden

We cared for our corn in those days as we would care for a child; for we Indian people loved our gardens, just as a mother loves her children, and we thought that our growing corn liked to hear us sing. —Maxidiwiac (Buffalo Bird Woman), Nuxbaaga (Hidatsa), 1910
After the first planting, women hoed their gardens to keep down weeds. A second planting began in June, followed by more hoeing. They drew the earth up around the corn stalks in hills, to protect the plants from wind and sun.
My best friend, what do you like? You said, “The corn is my pleasure.” —Numakiki/Nuxbaaga (Mandan/Hidatsa) Watcher’s Song
Group of Crow people working in garden with hoes, ca. 1903–1925. MS 95 William A. Petzoldt Lantern Slide Collection. LS.95.126

Group of Crow people working in garden with hoes, ca. 1903–1925. MS 95 William A. Petzoldt Lantern Slide Collection. LS.95.126

Hunting

Summer: Hunting

In the summertime we moved our lodges from the Bighorn Mountains to the Plains, that we might follow the buffalo herds. Our men had been hunting deer and bighorns in the mountains for a whole moon. We were glad to get back to the Plains…. Everybody was hungry for buffalo meat. —Pretty Shield, Apsáalooke (Crow), 1932
White Arm family hunting camp, Absaroke (Crow). Black and white lantern slide. MS 95 William A. Petzoldt Lantern Slide Collection. LS.95.80

White Arm family hunting camp, Absaroke (Crow). Black and white lantern slide. MS 95 William A. Petzoldt Lantern Slide Collection. LS.95.80

The Crow tribe, like other nomadic peoples, gathered on the Plains in the summer for extended communal buffalo hunts and celebrations. The Hidatsa, who could not spare so much time away from their gardens, went out onto the grasslands for only a month between planting and harvesting.
A camp on the Little Bighorn River. Colorized lantern slide. MS 95 William A. Petzoldt Lantern Slide Collection. LS.95.288

A camp on the Little Bighorn River. Colorized lantern slide. MS 95 William A. Petzoldt Lantern Slide Collection. LS.95.288

 
Gathering

Summer: Gathering

One day in the moon when the berries begin to turn red, I went with five other girls to dig turnips…. We began a race to see who could dig the most turnips, and became quiet as sleeping babies, each girl working hard to beat the others. —Pretty Shield, Apsáalooke (Crow), 1932
Northern Cheyenne women setting out to gather roots, ca. 1902–1911. Black and white photograph. Buffalo Bill Center of the West. MS 37 Elizabeth C. Grinnell Photograph Collection. P.37.2.3

Northern Cheyenne women setting out to gather roots, ca. 1902–1911. MS 37 Elizabeth C. Grinnell Photograph Collection. P.37.2.3

Wild berries, roots, and the other plants women gathered in the summer were good for food, healing, and as raw materials for their artwork.
Getting ready to set up camp at temporary berry camp, 1903–1925. MS 95 William Petzoldt Lantern Slide Collection. LS.95.74

Getting ready to set up camp at temporary berry camp, 1903–1925. MS 95 William Petzoldt Lantern Slide Collection. LS.95.74

Cherry pounder, ca. 1890. Northern Plains. NA.106.141

Cherry pounder, ca. 1890. Northern Plains. NA.106.141

 

Fall

…And in the fall, when it’s cold up here, snowing…we go back to the big rivers, the Big Horn River, Yellowstone River, and there was where we wintered….
…The grass was always high for our horses. And we have deer, antelope, elk, all down with us all the time. —Joe Medicine Crow, Apsáalooke (Crow), 1999
Pretty Enemy beside horse dragging tipi poles in Bighorn Mountains, ca. 1903–1925. MS 95 William A. Petzoldt Lantern Slide Collection. LS.95.213

Pretty Enemy beside horse dragging tipi poles in Bighorn Mountains, ca. 1903–1925. MS 95 William A. Petzoldt Lantern Slide Collection. LS.95.213

In the fall, people prepared for the long, cold winter. After the summer’s communal celebrations, hunting, and harvesting, people left the larger camps and villages and dispersed into smaller winter camps, more sheltered from the elements.
Blood Indian tipi in encampment, ca. 1915–1925. MS 320 Paul Dyck Plains Indian Buffalo Culture Collection. P.320.145

Blood Indian tipi in encampment, ca. 1915–1925. MS 320 Paul Dyck Plains Indian Buffalo Culture Collection. P.320.145

 
Hunting

Fall: Hunting

The clans were scattered over the Crow county, so that all might find plenty of meat. The great herds of buffalo were constantly moving, and of course we moved when they did. I never tired of moving. —Pretty Shield, Apsáalooke (Crow), 1932
Several Crow people on horseback dragging tipi poles, ca. 1903–1925. MS 95 William A. Petzoldt Lantern Slide Collection. LS.95.294

Several Crow people on horseback dragging tipi poles, ca. 1903–1925. MS 95 William A. Petzoldt Lantern Slide Collection. LS.95.294

Drying meat to provide for the coming winter, ca. 1922–1935. MS 165 Thomas B. Marquis Collection. PN.165.2.103

Drying meat to provide for the coming winter, ca. 1922–1935. MS 165 Thomas B. Marquis Collection. PN.165.2.103

 
Gathering

Fall: Gathering

Soup made with bitter roots and crushed bones is very fine. We girls all liked it, so that we began to dig, finding many turnips, carrots, stinking turnips, bitter roots, and potatoes. They are nearly always plentiful in the Crow country. —Pretty Shield, Apsáalooke (Crow), 1932
Three women out gathering, 1902–1911. MS 37 Elizabeth C. Grinnell Collection. P.37.2.2

Three women out gathering, 1902–1911. MS 37 Elizabeth C. Grinnell Collection. P.37.2.2

When they were camping, they just put up the lodges quickly if it was towards late afternoon. They would go out there and get the berries…. They would have a fire going so they could make fresh berry pudding. —Alma Snell, Apsáalooke (Crow), 2000
Two Cheyenne women setting up tipi, ca. 1922–1935. MS 165 Thomas B. Marquis Collection. PN.165.1.170

Two Cheyenne women setting up tipi, ca. 1922–1935. MS 165 Thomas B. Marquis Collection. PN.165.1.170

Berry cakes drying at temporary camp, ca. 1903–1925. MS 95 William Petzoldt Lantern Slide Collection. LS.95.78

Berry cakes drying at temporary camp, ca. 1903–1925. MS 95 William Petzoldt Lantern Slide Collection. LS.95.78

Harvesting

Fall: Harvesting

The women did all the work. They knew when to plant, they knew when to harvest, they knew what to do with the corn and squash…. Everything was dried for winter use. —Hazel Blake, Nuxbaaga (Hidatsa), 1999
Hanging corn and sliced squash on a spit for drying. Squash was harvested in late July, just before the green corn harvest, ca. 1903–1925. MS 95 William A. Petzoldt Lantern Slide Collection. LS.95.79

Hanging corn and sliced squash on a spit for drying. Squash was harvested in late July, just before the green corn harvest, ca. 1903–1925. MS 95 William A. Petzoldt Lantern Slide Collection. LS.95.79

From late July through the first frost, Hidatsa women worked steadily, harvesting one crop after another. After squash and green corn were harvested, beans ripened, and then corn, and finally, sunflowers. Hidatsa women grew five varieties of beans. Sunflowers were the first crop planted in the spring and the last harvested in the fall.
Woven basket, 1860. Mandan. Chandler-Pohrt Collection, Gift of Mr. William D. Weiss. NA.106.183

Woven basket, 1860. Mandan. Chandler-Pohrt Collection, Gift of Mr. William D. Weiss. NA.106.183

Gourd ladle. Southern Plains. NA.106.469

Gourd ladle. Southern Plains. NA.106.469

Trade

Fall: Trade

They used to grow vegetables, corn, beans, squash, all those sort of things. So any surplus that they had, provided the currency, so to speak for trade with nomadic tribes, such as the Sioux and Cheyenne, and the other tribes that roamed the northern Plains. Our villages were probably one of the major centers of a vast trading network throughout the Northern Plains. —Calvin Grinnell, Numakiki/Nuxbaaga (Mandan/Hidatsa), 1999
Women in camp, 1910–1920. MS 320 Paul Dyck Plains Indian Buffalo Culture Collection. P.320.462

Women in camp, 1910–1920. MS 320 Paul Dyck Plains Indian Buffalo Culture Collection. P.320.462

Winter

January would be described as the moon of thick ice, and February would be the moon of when owls have their babies and it’s also the time…the river thaws and then it refreezes and the water goes over the ice. —Louella Johnson, Apsáalooke (Crow), 2000
The winter season, ca. 1903–1925. MS 95 William A. Petzoldt Lantern Slide Collection. LS.95.122

The winter season, ca. 1903–1925. MS 95 William A. Petzoldt Lantern Slide Collection. LS.95.122

March, it’s the month where land is starting to become visible. —Louella Johnson, Apsáalooke (Crow), 2000
Log buildings and tents in winter, ca. 1922–1935. MS 165 Thomas B. Marquis Collection. PN.165.2.158

Log buildings and tents in winter, ca. 1922–1935. MS 165 Thomas B. Marquis Collection. PN.165.2.158

 
Tipis

Winter: Tipis

Our village was at the place-where-we-eat-bear-meat. It was a winter camp, so that all our lodges were new. And it was a pretty village with its big circle of white lodges, all their smokes riding away on the winds. —Pretty Shield, Apsáalooke (Crow), 1932
Crow tipis among trees and horse drinking from Little Bighorn River in Montana, ca. 1903–1925. MS 95 William A. Petzoldt Lantern Slide Collection. LS.95.286

Crow tipis among trees and horse drinking from Little Bighorn River in Montana, ca. 1903–1925. MS 95 William A. Petzoldt Lantern Slide Collection. LS.95.286

Living in tipis, or lodges, allowed nomadic hunters to move quickly and carry everything with them.
Woman and child with tipi, Crow, ca. 1903–1925. MS 95 William A. Petzoldt Lantern Slide Collection. LS.95.236

Woman and child with tipi, Crow, ca. 1903–1925. MS 95 William A. Petzoldt Lantern Slide Collection. LS.95.236

Crow tipis are built around four main poles, as opposed to the tripod that other tribes use.
Mobility

Winter: Mobility

They would have a crier go through the camp and say, ‘We’re moving; we’re moving…. We’re going towards the mountains…. We’re breaking camp.’ —Alma Snell, Apsáalooke (Crow), 2000
On the trail with horse pulling travois. MS 35 North American Indian Photograph Collection. P.35.180

On the trail with horse pulling travois. MS 35 North American Indian Photograph Collection. P.35.180

How I loved to move…. Long before the sun came the fires would be going in every lodge, the horses, hundreds of them, would come thundering in…. Down would come the lodges, packs would be mode, travois loaded…. Away we would go…. —Pretty Shield, Apsáalooke (Crow), 1932
Cree woman carrying child and holding horse's lead rope while pulling travois. MS 35 North American Indian Photograph Collection. P.35.121

Cree woman carrying child and holding horse’s lead rope while pulling travois. MS 35 North American Indian Photograph Collection. P.35.121

 
Toys and Games

Winter: Toys and Games

During the slow days of winter, toys, games, and stories helped pass the time, and developed skills and knowledge that people needed in their daily lives.
Cheyenne men and Crow men playing hand-game against each other at Cheyenne Fair in Lame Deer, Montana, 1928. MS 165 Thomas B. Marquis Collection. PN.165.1.32

Cheyenne men and Crow men playing hand-game against each other at Cheyenne Fair in Lame Deer, Montana, 1928. MS 165 Thomas B. Marquis Collection. PN.165.1.32

She used to fix us little bitty toys made like a woman and a man—dolls…. She’d fix little parfleches for them, and they’d play with that, and they grew up to where they were able to pitch up a regular tipi. —Alma Snell, Apsáalooke (Crow), 2000, talking about her grandmother, Pretty Shield
Doll, ca. 1910. Crow. Cloth, beads, yarn, cotton, buckskin. In loving memory of Julia Frost Pasley Morrison. NA.507.99.1

Doll, ca. 1910. Crow. Cloth, beads, yarn, cotton, buckskin. In loving memory of Julia Frost Pasley Morrison. NA.507.99.1

Hand game rattle with game sticks and carrying bag. Hide, feathers, leather, yarn, brass bells, wool cloth. The Paul Dyck Plains Indian Buffalo Culture Collection, acquired through the generosity of the Dyck family and additional gifts of the Nielson Family and the Estate of Margaret S. Coe. NA.503.36

Hand game rattle with game sticks and carrying bag. Hide, feathers, leather, yarn, brass bells, wool cloth. The Paul Dyck Plains Indian Buffalo Culture Collection, acquired through the generosity of the Dyck family and additional gifts of the Nielson Family and the Estate of Margaret S. Coe. NA.503.36

 
Earth Lodges

Winter: Earth Lodges

Our people chose to live along the Missouri…in earth lodges that were developed over hundreds, maybe thousands of years…. They were part of this living along the river, this sedentary lifestyle…. —Calvin Grinnell, Numakiki/Nuxbaaga (Mandan/Hidatsa), 1999
George Catlin (1796–1872). "Knife River, Minnetare [Hidatsa]," ca. 1855–1870. Oil on paperboard. Gift of Paul Mellon. 26.86

George Catlin (1796–1872). “Knife River, Minnetare [Hidatsa],” ca. 1855–1870. Oil on paperboard. Gift of Paul Mellon. 26.86

The round earth lodges had a central fireplace, four posts that held up the main beams, and were about 40–50 feet in diameter…. This was a very energy efficient dwelling; it remained cool in the summer and warm in the winter…. —Calvin Grinnell, Numakiki/Nuxbaaga (Mandan/Hidatsa), 1999
George Catlin (1796–1872). "Rain-Making, Mandan," ca. 1855–1870. Oil on paperboard. Gift of Paul Mellon. 24.86

George Catlin (1796–1872). “Rain-Making, Mandan,” ca. 1855–1870. Oil on paperboard. Gift of Paul Mellon. 24.86

Our people thought that they had a spirit, that there was life to everything and that there should be respect given people’s homes because they were made out of natural things, everything was natural. This was a respect for a person’s way of life, a person’s individuality, and entire families who lived in these earth lodges. —Calvin Grinnell, Numakiki/Nuxbaaga (Mandan/Hidatsa), 1999